What is HbA1C?
HbA1c refers to glycated haemoglobin — how much glucose is attached to haemoglobin (a protein found in red blood cells). A HbA1c test is used as a way to measure your average blood glucose levels over the past three months.
What is its function?
When the sugar in your blood rises, it binds to haemoglobin in your red blood cells. And because your red blood cells live for about three months, a HbA1c test can tell your average blood glucose levels over the last few months. This helps to indicate the risk of pre-diabetes and diabetes.
If you have diabetes, a Hb1Ac test is a useful way to check how well you're controlling your blood glucose levels.
What can cause it to change?
A number of things can cause high blood glucose levels and subsequently high HbA1c levels. These include:
- being overweight
- an unhealthy diet
- lack of exercise
- chronic stress
- some medications — for example, steroids
What are the most common symptoms?
If your HbA1c result indicates prediabetes, it's unlikely you'll have any symptoms. But if your HbA1c level indicates diabetes, some common symptoms include:
- increased thirst
- feeling very hungry
- frequent urination
- blurred vision
- slow healing of cuts or wounds
- frequent thrush infections
If you have any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor.
Long-term, a high HbA1c result might lead to things like eye problems, kidney disease, and nerve damage.
What factors within my control could influence it?
There are lots of ways to lower your HbA1c level, including:
- exercising regularly
- losing weight if you’re overweight
- choosing carbohydrates with a low glycaemic index (GI) — for example, whole grains, pulses, some fruit and vegetables
- avoiding processed foods high in trans and saturated fats and sugar